Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why it Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies in the Southeast are in a difficult position of trying to balance the increased pressure of turkey hunters and declining turkey populations. While increased hunter participation provides for greater funding for the agency through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), turkey populations must be managed to ensure the sustainability of the resource for future generations to enjoy.
In response to declining turkey populations, regulation changes in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi include:
Alabama: The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted to push opening day of 2022 spring turkey season to March 25, decrease their yearly bag limit from five to four gobblers, and prohibit the use of decoys during the first 10 days of the spring season. Additional information on the changes to Alabama’s spring turkey season can be found here.
Georgia: Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) voted to push the start date of spring turkey season on private lands back to the first Saturday after March 26, which is a week later than seasons in the past. On public lands in the state, the DNR voted to push the start date back to the second Saturday in April, approximately two weeks later than normal. The DNR has also lowered the season bag limit down from three gobblers to two. Additional information on the changes to Georgia’s spring turkey season can be found here.
Mississippi: At the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) Commission’s August 18 meeting, the Commission voted in favor of a draw system for non-resident turkey hunters looking to hunt on public lands in the state during the first two weeks of the season. With an annual start date of March 15, Mississippi is one of the earliest states to open their turkey season, which entices turkey hunters from across the country to come to the Magnolia State. With nearby states pushing their seasons back, the MDWFP feared that turkey populations in the state, particularly on public lands, would be pressured even further. Additional information on the proposed changes to Mississippi’s turkey season can be found here.
The influx of new hunting license holders contributes greatly to the ASCF and shows success in recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts. The subsequent increase in hunter participation, however, makes managing wild turkey populations across the Southeast that much more important. CSF encourages the participation of new hunters and supports the management efforts of the state fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that we continue to have opportunities to go afield and pursue wild turkeys in the spring.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?